Dwight Howard is a man who both excites and frustrates the hell out of Los Angeles Lakers fans, the same way he did to Orlando Magic fans.
The Lakers organization has a history of winning, which they haven’t done recently, and don’t look like they can next year, especially with the team as currently constructed. However, they’ll have a better chance if Howard sticks around—and head coach Mike D’Antoni gets fired, but that’s a different topic for another time.
But as he did while with Orlando, Howard has been waffling about whether or not he wants to come back because he wants to experience free agency.
There’s one big man in whose shadow Howard is living—Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq didn’t hold back on his opinion about Dwight Howard when the TNT analyst called into the Max & Marcellus show on ESPNLA 710 and pinpointed Howard’s problem:
“He’s too nice. I’m a connoisseur of giggling and playing and all that and making you laugh and playing with the fans, but when I cross that line, I’m ready to tear your face off. I don’t care who it is. You could put one of my aunts or uncles out there, and I’m going to give him these elbows in their chest and I’m going to throw it down in their face. That’s what you have to do. … He’s just too nice. If I was him, I would get into the same mood I was in.”
Shaq first said he wanted to help Howard, stating:
“I think it’s my duty to help this young man become one of the best big men in the league,” O’Neal said. “I’m from the old school. I’m not doing it nicely. I’m pushing buttons, I’m talking about you and I’m doing it like this. … I think it’s my job as a former big man to get him to play up to par. When I was in L.A., Kareem and Wilt never spoke to me. They never said two things to me. I took that as a, ‘OK, you all don’t think I’m as good as you yet. Well, watch this.’ That’s what it was – motivation. Everything I say should be taken as motivation. He’s the best big man in the league, and it’s my job to make sure he plays that way. Period.”
But then shortly after said, “I don’t want him to reach out to me. I want him to get into the ‘Forget Shaq’ mode and [say], ‘Watch this.’ He doesn’t even have to reach out to me.”
Obviously The Big Aristotle will be watching Howard, not only because he gets paid to, but because he genuinely loves the game, and there hasn’t been a big man like him since he retired.
Fans in L.A. feel this same way. We want to win because we’re used to being the best. This is why people love Kobe Bryant, because even when he has no Achilles Tendon, he takes those last two free throws. Howard needs that kind of intensity and drive to win, but it doesn’t seem like he has it.
The cherry on top though was when Shaq talked about coming to L.A., saying:
“I just know when it comes to pressure, you either run away from it or you handle it. The first day I got to the Forum, the great Jerry West said, ‘Son, look up.’ And I saw Kareem’s jersey, Wilt’s jersey and all the great jerseys. He said, ‘Shaq, I know you do movies, I know you do albums, but you need to get at least two or three championships while you’re here or this move will be considered a bust.’ So for me, it was a lot of pressure but I like the pressure. Especially when you see other greats say that he’s like a Wilt or he’s like a Kareem. I knew I had to step up. He should have known all of this when he signed with L.A. He should have known what he was getting into. My advice to him is to look pressure in the face and give it the one-two combination and knock it out.”
Lakers fans are a proud breed, and if a person doesn’t want to be here, then leave. There are stars hiding all over the NBA just waiting to be found, and able big men who want to win.
The worst thing that could happen, though, is something like with LeBron James and Cleveland. If Howard makes the Lakers twiddle their thumbs while free agents pass them by, then he has no intention of staying with L.A.
Shaq’s words served to fire Howard up, but from the looks of things they may just push him away, and if he doesn’t want the pressure that comes with winning, then let him go.